Dogfish Head Burton Baton
10.0% ABV, 70 IBU
For almost a week, I tirelessly opened my refrigerator door to see a bottle peering at me from the bottom shelf, imploring me to open it. My indefatigable will power triumphed for the better part of five days until I was ready to sit down and give this masterfully blended, barrel-aged brilliance from Delaware its due. Whether it is scouring the planet for ancient ingredients (Pangea and Midas Touch) or brewing with insane combinations like coffee, St. Johns Wort, and licorice root (Chicory Stout), Dogfish Head takes a unique approach to all of their beers, and this oak-aged Imperial IPA is no different actually blending two separately brewed strands – an imperial IPA and an English-style old ale – in an oak fermenter for about a month. The result of that process, liquid beauty; the result of me waiting five days to enjoy, torture.
Burton Baton pours a clear brownish-amber body with an inch-high frothy white head out of its bottle and into an IPA glass, with the aroma of roasted raisins billowing out of the beer as you pour it. The month-long barrel-aging gives plenty of time for both beer types to blend and to take on the smoky characteristics of the oak in both scent and flavor. The first sip is sweet, almost candied, mildly bitter, and then smoky vanilla to end. Maintaining both some hoppy sweetness that you would expect from an IPA and the maltiness (and high alcohol) of an English-style old ale, the barrel-aging enhances those flavors with a toastiness and a subtle additional sweetness.
This was a damn good beer, nay a fantastic beer for one reason…because Dogfish Head cares. They are not satisfied with just making good beer. The innovation, tinkering, and imagination that goes into their beers defines “craft.” The rave reviews of others and the days of waiting to drink Burton Baton built an expectation that I feared would be insurmountable. Oh me, of little faith. The unfounded fear vanished after my first sip (may have been the 10% alcohol kicking in already), and thirty minutes of sipping ecstasy ensued. Dogfish Head has found the process for making great beer: find styles of beer that everyone likes, turn those styles on their head, tinker with the recipes, invent new styles, uncover new ingredients, and convert them into barley-based bliss. I have found the process for consuming it: find this beer, buy this beer, enjoy this beer, and then repeat the process. If you have the steel will (waiting five days) that I do you can even age some, as it is supposed to age well. But since this is now a year round selection why torture yourself?